Higher Ed Funding Package Advanced by House Committee

Includes increases to the Pell Grant and other student aid, increased accountability for for-profits, 

July 6, 2022
The US Capitol, a white marble building with columns and a dome.
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The House Appropriations Committee approved a funding plan on June 30 that would increase funding for the Education Department by 13 percent for fiscal year 2023.

The bill, approved by the committee in a vote of 32 to 24 along party lines, would allocate over $3.9 billion for higher education, a $968 million increase from fiscal year 2022, and $24.6 billion for federal student aid programs, a $59 million increase.

The budget plan would set the stage to fulfill Biden's proposal to expand the maximum Pell Grant by $2,175 to $8,670. It does this by providing an additional $500 increase to the discretionary funding for Pell Grant, the only portion of the funding that is controlled by the Appropriations Committee. In order to reach the president's goal, the House and Senate must increase mandatory funding through legislation to change the Higher Education Act of 1965. (This paragraph has been updated with more explanation.)

“Five hundred dollars is the largest Pell increase in a decade,” said Jon Fansmith, assistant vice president of government relations at the American Council on Education, on the increase to the discretionary spending. 

The House’s proposed increases to the Pell Grant would have a greater impact on students attending colleges with lower tuition prices.

 David Baime, senior vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges said that for community college students, who pay an average of $3,800 a year in tuition, “increases of that amount do promote student success to the extent that students can study more and work or borrow less.”

The Senate Committee on Appropriations has not yet set forward its budget plan, and many said that the process could extend beyond the midterm elections in November, past the end of the 2022 fiscal year in October.

“It seems unlikely Congress will finish appropriations before the end of the fiscal year,” said Craig Lindwarm, vice president for governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. “There’s yet to be bipartisan agreement on setting the levels of spending for the next fiscal year, and so until that happens, there’s a lot more work to be done.”

Other Key Spending on Higher Education

  • Student aid: The budget plan would provide over $24.6 billion to fund federal student aid programs, an increase of $59 million from the year prior. The budget plan includes increased funding for Federal Work-Study (a $34 million increase) and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program (a $25 million increase), both of which received no additional funding in the president’s budget proposal.
  • Expands federal student aid to Dreamers: The bill would amend language in the Higher Education Act of 1965 to allow students who have temporary residency status through the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to qualify for Pell Grants and other federal student loan programs. The provision has strong Democratic support but will face criticism in the Senate, where a 50-50 split between Democrats and Independents and Republicans will likely stall the proposal in negotiations.
  • HBCUs and MSIs: Of the over $3.9 billion allocated to higher education programs, $1.1 billion will go directly to minority-serving institutions and historically Black colleges and universities, an increase of $225 million from the prior year. Within this bill, Howard University would receive $394 million, $84 million more than was proposed by Biden. Tribal colleges would receive an additional $9 million, totaling $53 million, for fiscal year 2023. An allocation of $520 million made available to the Education Department’s Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) will provide $255 million for research and development infrastructure grants at these colleges. Fansmith was pleased to see these increases. He said, “It’s not a secret really that historically [MSIs and HBCUs] have been underfunded relative to other institutions. A lot of the capacity issues they have are because of discriminatory funding. Things that should be done to address that should be done, and it’s good to see the House doing that.”
  • Increases accountability for for-profits: The budget plan includes new language that would require for-profit colleges to derive more of their revenues from nonfederal sources. The House budget plan proposed an amendment to the Higher Education Act that would lower the proportion of revenue that for-profit colleges can get from federal resources from 90 percent to 85 percent. For-profit colleges are against the change, according to Tom Netting, executive director at the Career Schools Private Education Network, which represents career, training and certificate-specific programs, which includes many for-profit colleges. He said that because of the additional federal resources used to fund financial aid programs, that change to the threshold could cause tuition increases to avoid for-profits losing federal funding eligibility.
  • Career, technical and adult education: The budget plan would allocate $11.8 billion for the Employment and Training Administration under the Department of Labor to increase funding for adult workforce and educational opportunities by $1.3 billion from the year prior. This bill includes $3.1 billion in funding for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act state grant (a $256 million increase), $303 million for registered apprenticeship programs (a $68 million increase), and $100 million to expand Strengthening Community College Training Grants (a $50 million increase), a program that helps fund education in high-demand skills through community colleges and four-year partners. Baime, who applauded the additional funding, said, “Given the worker shortage, it is essential to have the federal government beefing up the job training that our institutions can provide.”
  • Childcare: The bill includes $95 million, a $30 million increase, to the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program, which provides childcare subsidies to parents attending college.
  • Other higher education programs: Increased funding was allocated to the Federal TRIO program ($1.3 billion, a $161 million increase), GEAR UP ($408 million, a $30 million increase), and Teacher Quality Partnerships ($132 million, a $73 million increase).

Funding for Other Agencies

The proposed budget also includes funding for agencies that support research. Their funding levels, however, fall short of the funding proposed by President Biden.

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Under the House budget plan, the National Institutes of Health would receive $47.5 billion, a 5.6 percent increase that falls $1.4 billion short of Biden’s proposal. The money would fund research on cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other public health concerns.

Additionally, the National Science Foundation would receive an increase of $783 million, a 9 percent overall increase that is not even half of the 19 percent increase requested by Biden. NSF conducts research on climate change and clean energy, and Lindwarm said this funding is “critically important” to public research universities. (The figure for the NSF increase has been changed to correct an error.)

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